MEGATRAUMAS: America at the Year 2000 by Richard D. Lamm

MEGATRAUMAS: America at the Year 2000

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An ingeniously packaged, plausibly presented but ultimately overstated brief for the proposition that ""the United States is a nation in liquidation."" Lamm, governor of Colorado (and futurist: see 1988, p. 735), offers a series of worst-case scenarios in a potentially arresting format. At the turn of the century, President Susan J. Hesperus (a none too subtle allusion to the Evening Star) is set to prepare her State of the Union message. She has called on cabinet officers and agency heads for frank, unhedged reports to document her cautionary speech. The requested memos and collateral material, which paint an unrelievedly bleak picture of a near future with few options for either America or the world at large, comprise the bulk of the text. Among the cheerless intelligence reaching the Oval Office is an explanation from the Commerce Secretary as to why foreign countries no longer buy goods made by US firms. Included as well are grim evaluations of agriculture, education, health care, natural resources, public safety, and other societal bulwarks whose disastrous decline dates from the 1980s. Conspicuous by their absence, though, are state-of-the-art accounts of bioengineering, electronic data processing, telecommunications, and other advanced technologies with the capacity to take up the economic slack. The apocalyptically inclined Lamm (who may be a closet Malthusian) slips several jokers into his deck of tarot cards. Notable in this respect is a lengthy excerpt from a 2010 history, which commends the presidential administration of Martin Morganstern (right, Morning Star) whose eight-year term in office spans half that previously ascribed to Hesperus. Manifestly an authorial surrogate introduced to convey the possibility of redemption, Morganstern is a Chief Executive with all the answers--and proper priorities. His accomplishments (made possible largely by consentual sacrifice) range from renewal of the infrastructure, exclusionary immigration policies, reform of the retirement system, and substantive investments in education through reduction of the national debt. In extremis speculations that, while occasionally provocative, are mainly simplistic, muddled, and, on balance, unconvincing.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin